The offensive approach for the Seattle Seahawks got about as basic as it ever does this week for quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and his crew.
His job was to concentrate on tempo, allow the offensive line to be comfortable with the blocking schemes, be certain the receivers are aware of where they should be, and create the kind of timing that will help the running game get going early.
Not that it's asking too much from Hasselbeck, who was forced to essentially scrap the running game midway through last season. But in the wake of the crippling injuries at wide receiver and now the absence of the starting right side of his line after a 31-10 loss at Buffalo, Sunday's home opener against the San Francisco 49ers requires some positive momentum for the offense.
Last week, Hasselbeck was an uncommon 17-of-41 passing for 190 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He was a victim of repeated drops, lost starting split end Nate Burleson for the season, and they still won't have veterans Bobby Engram and Deion Branch on Sunday. The consequence of those injuries leaves Hasselbeck and coach Mike Holmgren with candidates from the list of Courtney Taylor and Logan Payne; perhaps quarterback Seneca Wallace; two signed free agents last week just learning the offense – Billy McMullen, Samie Parker and then released Parker Saturday.
That set the stage for re-signing rookie free agent Michael Bumpus to the 53-man roster. Bumpus earned All-Pac 10 Conference honorable mention while recording 70 receptions, 789 receiving yards and four touchdowns at Washington State in 2007. He also holds the Cougars all-time record for career punt return yardage, and had a solid preseason, only to be released and signed to the practice squad in the final cut. His versatility and diligence on the practice squad made it practical to bring him back.
With Bumpus, there's a lot more familiarity for Hasselbeck.
"I think it takes a lot more focus, that's probably the biggest thing for the quarterback position," Hasselbeck said. "You've really got to focus in on each guy, each play. You can't just go through the motions.
"I think we learned quite a bit. We made a lot of mistakes. We were not very good in a lot of areas. It definitely showed. What usually happens is if you show your weaknesses on film, you're going to have to answer to those for at least a month because that's the film that everybody's going to study for a while. We've got to be ready to go."
On the offensive line, with Ray Willis already subbing at right tackle while Sean Locklear requires one more week to rest his sore knee, right guard Rob Sims suffered a torn pectoral muscle last Sunday and had surgery this week. He's out for the season and veteran Floyd Womack will start there. Running back Julius Jones will make his starting debut after gaining 45 yards on 13 carries last week – a game started by Maurice Morris, who is out indefinitely with a knee injury suffered in the third quarter at Buffalo.
But Holmgren is happy with the way the team practiced this week, and is confident – buoyed by the insatiably excited Qwest Field crowd – the team will get some of its swagger back. And it could start with Jones and fullback Leonard Weaver getting the offense going on the ground.
"Yeah, I think that's true," Holmgren said. "Regardless of any team's injury situation, the running game benefits the passing game, and then if you have a really good passing attack, you could say the opposite too. I've been in both situations. Last year we had to work it the opposite way. I fully believe in balance if you can do it, but at the same time, I've always said that we've got to figure out the best way we have of moving the football. But yeah, one thing helps the other, there's no question about that."
The question is who will play at wide receiver and what kind of timing will evolve. That's why the "Holmgren System," based on tempo was so vital this week to get into sync. The playbook itself and all of its wrinkles make the limitations this week immense for McMullen. Consequently, the expectations for Taylor and Payne, with two receptions apiece last week, increase.
And the possibility of Wallace making more than a token appearance at receiver is greater than ever.
"We've been (pushing tempo) all week in practice," Hasselbeck said. "I put that on me, I didn't push it enough in practice (last week). I'm pushing it this week in practice. I try to have the same tempo in practice as we do in the game. I think we've done a really good job so far this week with that part of it.
"You know, it's unusual. It's definitely unusual. But I think for us, as players, what we need to do is focus on what we can control. Obviously, the stuff that's happening is a little out of our control. I'm sure there's people in the building looking at everything that we do from training camp to nutrition to everything, so who knows? But as players, it's just important for us to focus."
This and that
Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Trufant injured his right hand this week in practice, he practiced and Holmgren said he will play with some sort of padding. … All-Pro middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu also had padding on his hand for a thumb injury he suffered. He, too, will play. … With Burleson out for the season, rookie tight end John Carlson is the leading active receiver for the season with four receptions last week.